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Gregory R. Mann, Ph.D. {ret.}

Gulper Shark

“Centrophorus squamosus”

The Gulper Shark belongs to the family Centrophoridae also called “Dogfish”. The distinctive features of this shark includes large green eyes and denticles (tiny flat v-shaped scales on the skin) that are leaf like. The first dorsal fin is quite long and low. The dorsal fins have spines on them and the shark does not have an anal fin. This shark is known to reach a maximum size of 150 centimeters (about 5 feet) which is quite small compared to many other shark species. The maximum recorded length of this shark is 158 centimeters. This shark also has a longish snout and is brown or grey in color with no preset patterns for recognition. It has teeth in both jaws that are shaped like blades. The upper set is much smaller than the lower one. The Gulper Shark is normally found near or on continental slopes usually at depths of 140 meters to 1,250 meters (459 feet to 4,100 feet). It is also found in the open waters at the same depths. This deep water shark has been sighted on the continental slopes of Iceland right up to the Cape of Good Hope, the Eastern Atlantic Ocean, Western Indian Ocean (near Aldabra Islands), Western Pacific Ocean (near Honshu, Japan), New Zealand, South-Eastern Australia and the Philippines Islands. These sharks are known to be great hunters, nocturnal predators and eats smaller fish and cephalopods.

The Gulper Shark could be one of the longest living shark species. Scientists have attempted to study this mysterious shark, but due to its deep water habitat, information on this shark is quite limited. This species was quite aggressively fished in the past. The meat of this shark is turned into fish-meal and is also consumed by humans in isolated parts of the world after drying and salting. The trawl fisheries and deep-water long-line fisheries of Western Europe (Spain, Ireland, France & Portugal) catch this shark quite frequently and its liver and meat are exported & marketed from these countries. The North and East Atlantic shorelines have seen a decline of the Gulper Shark population by and estimated 80-90% over a period of 3 years. The sole cause of this is commercial exploitation.

These sharks also have long intervals between litters and slower growth compared to other sharks. The advantage they have is that they tend to live quite long due to stable and cold surroundings in the deep seas that they prefer. Being smaller in size and living at great depths, these sharks are quite safe from many potential threats. The Shark grows at a very slow rate and males of the species are considered adult when they reach a length of 100 centimeters while the females of the species are considered so once they reach the length of about 125 centimeters. These sharks are ovoviviparous, which means the eggs grow inside the female shark until the pups hatch. No additional information on the reproductive process of these sharks is known. After observation, there have been no reproductive seasonal cycles observed, so it is assumed that the reproduction occurs across the year. The average litter size of a Gulper Shark is 5 to 8 pups. According to recent research in Portugal’s landing ports, there are 2 breeding cycles a year and the pups born are estimated to be 440 millimeters (a little over 1 foot) in length.

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